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Electron Beam Etching of CaO Crystals Observed Atom by Atom

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posted on 24.07.2017, 00:00 by Yuting Shen, Tao Xu, Xiaodong Tan, Jun Sun, Longbing He, Kuibo Yin, Yilong Zhou, Florian Banhart, Litao Sun
With the rapid development of nanoscale structuring technology, the precision in the etching reaches the sub-10 nm scale today. However, with the ongoing development of nanofabrication the etching mechanisms with atomic precision still have to be understood in detail and improved. Here we observe, atom by atom, how preferential facets form in CaO crystals that are etched by an electron beam in an in situ high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM). An etching mechanism under electron beam irradiation is observed that is surprisingly similar to chemical etching and results in the formation of nanofacets. The observations also explain the dynamics of surface roughening. Our findings show how electron beam etching technology can be developed to ultimately realize tailoring of the facets of various crystalline materials with atomic precision.